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Weather Update;
12" LX600 First Light

Posted: 24 July 2016

After the replacement carpet installation on Monday, 18 July 2016, I went to the observatory early Tuesday morning to do some work. I managed to get the POD vacuuming done before the high temp (100°F) got to me. Afternoon brief Monsoon thundershowers came through but only dropped 0.1" rain here. 1638 MST: "gustnado" seen about 30 miles away to the west:

Click or tap on image for larger version

I returned to the observatory after the afternoon storms had passed and the temperature was down to 80°F to finish connecting electrical items. Then began waiting for good weather before setting up the replacement 12" LX600 telescope.

Another thunderstorm came through Tuesday before midnight and gave us another 0.2" of rain. Wednesday morning, 20 July, I checked the new carpet; it did well on its first rain, both inside and outside of the observatory. I received an update on the "glitch" that occurred during the carpet installation. The "bullnose" metal trim that was planned to protect the edges and corners can not be done as there is no width available that would wrap around the curved concrete edges + carpet. Bummer. But I can live with it.

Although the skies continued to be cloudy with Monsoon storms in the area, no rain was received on Wednesday or Thursday. I decided to finally set up the replacement 12" LX600 telescope in the observatory early Friday morning, 22 July. Shortly after sunrise I moved the large telescope box to the observatory:


Unboxing, moving the components into the SkyShed POD, and placing the telescope base on the wedge took 2 hours (by myself). I then had to wait a few hours for my assistant (wife and CFO) to be available to help place the 12" telescope on the base. With the telescope mounted on the pier I finished assembling all the components and did a quick power ON check, which was OK. At last, Cassiopeia Observatory was ready for operation once again:


(You can see more photos of what unboxing and setting up the 12" LX600 is like on my original "First Light" report.) The next steps required a clear night to set up the AutoStar and align the mount and StarLock, which did not occur until Saturday, 23 July.

Open: Saturday, 23 July 2016, 1838 MST
Temperature: 107°F
Session: 1002
Conditions: Mostly clear

Equipment Used:
12" f/8 LX600 w/StarLock
Wired AutoStar II handset
2" 24mm UWA eyepiece
2" 9mm 100° eyepiece


This night was planned to be "First Light" for the replacement 12" LX600 telescope.

Upon opening the observatory I SYNCed the observatory clock to WWV. I then took a photo of the 12" LX600 telescope for the Equipment page.

Monsoon season is in full bloom here in southern Arizona. Although the sky was mostly clear when I opened the observatory there were some storm clouds visible along the horizon in several directions. This is one to the southeast at 1850 MST:


As sunset approached breezes were picking up and the storm to southeast had changed, as seen here at 1924 MST:


A storm to the northeast had a definite glow from the setting Sun at 1927 MST:


1931 MST: sunset. The sky was partly cloudy now. I began to wonder if I would be able to get "First Light" on the new telescope if the clouds continued to increase. But at 1934 MST I powered on the 12" LX600. Used the wired AutoStar II with the long ScopeStuff HBX cable this night. Turned the StarLock and High Precision OFF. I then configured the AutoStar settings to be those I used on the final session with the previous 12" LX600. I then aligned the finderscope. While I was focusing the new telescope I noticed right away that the focusing was much smoother on this initial use than the previous one had been on initial use. Maybe that explains why the previous one developed astigmatism.

2005 MST: First Light with the new 12" LX600 was on the planet Mars, 102X. Unfortunately seeing was not too good due to clouds, but some surface details were visible. I then did a One Star alignment.

2015 MST: viewed Mars, 271X. The view was slightly better now. Then viewed Saturn, 271X. Although the view was hampered by thin clouds, Cassini Division was a very nice sight. Some cloud bands and 4 moons were also visible. Next viewed was Jupiter, 271X, low in the western sky but in a clear area. The view of the cloud bands and the four Galilean Moons was pretty good.

As I was slewing the telescope from one direction to another the focus would change quite a bit. I also saw this with the previous 12" LX600. I really think that Meade should have included a focus lock on the 12" model. I will definitely have to use the homemade focus lock that Meade suggested to me for astrophotography.

I then viewed M57 (Ring Nebula), 102X. Good view but the still bright twilight sky reduced the contrast. Viewed the colorful double star Albireo, 102X. Pretty. Next was Epsilon Lyrae (Double Double Star), 102X. I had used this object as a confirmation that the previous 12" LX600 telescope had developed astigmatism. With the previous telescope, only one of the components could be separated although both components are at nearly the same separation distance, but at about a right angle to each other. With the new telescope I could separate both fainter components. I also viewed the star Deneb to check the collimation, with and without a 2" star diagonal. Initial check looked OK.

2045 MST: StarLock ON, High Precision ON. SYNCed the AutoStar and StarLock on the star Deneb. Then did a GOTO M11 (Wild Duck Cluster). Although the StarLock reported the object as centered, it was not in the 2" 24mm UWA eyepiece (102X) field-of-view (FOV). I slewed to the star Altair and SYNCed on it. Then did a GOTO M11 and this time it was placed in the center of the FOV. I still have some more adjustments to make with the telescope and StarLock. The Wild Duck Cluster was a pretty sight at 102X. Then viewed M8 (Lagoon Nebula), M20 (Trifid Nebula), and M22 (globular cluster), 102X. The StarLock centered all of them and the views were good.

2106 MST: LX600 OFF. And so ended First Light with the new 12" LX600 telescope. I had hoped to do a StarLock assisted Drift Alignment and RA PEC training this session but there were too many clouds. I hope to get those done on the next session, whenever that is. More rain is in the forecast for the coming week.

Close: Saturday, 23 July 2016, 2118 MST
Temperature: 85°F
Session Length: 2h 40m
Conditions: Partly cloudy

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